Alternative careers: Indian Administrative Services

We’ve all heard of it. Some of us dream of getting into it, thanks to the
impeccable reputation that the IAS has been able to build. You might be in a
dilemma as to whether to take the IAS route or go corporate. We, at The
Scholars’ Avenue attempt to mitigate this dilemma with this short overview
of the IAS.

What is it?

The Indian Administrative Services (IAS) is, simply put, the bureaucratic
arm of the Indian government. Officers in the IAS hold major administrative
posts at the Centre or the State and are integral to the running of the
nation.

They are chiefly involved in civil administration at the macro as well asthe grass roots levels. They also act as the policy framers and decision makers of the government at various points in time, and on various levels. One could say that the position of the IAS officers in the government is crudely analogous to that of managers at different grades and degrees in a large organization.

How is the selection done?

Every year, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the nationwide civil services examination for entry into a multitude of public services, most notably the IAS, the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS). Recruitment for a slew of other Group A and Group B services such as Indian Revenue Service, Indian Audit & Accounts Service, Indian Customs & Central Excise Service, Indian Postal Service is also done through this examination. Any Indian citizen between 21 and 30 years of age with a valid Bachelor’s degree in any discipline from arecognized institution can apply. There are various relaxations for SC, ST and OBC sections.

Like any other popular entrance test, the civil services examination has a preliminary exam which is followed by a main exam. The main exam includes an interview round.The prelims comprise two papers with objective type questions, one in general studies (150 marks), and another (300 marks), in a subject to be chosen by the candidate from 23 varied options ranging from Electrical Engineering to Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science. The
selection of an appropriate optional subject is crucial to doing well in the prelims. If one is screened through the prelims, one will have to face the mains – a set of nine subjective type papers, including a paper in a vernacular (to be chosen from a list of 18 languages) and one in English, which are purely qualifying papers. Further, there are two papers in general studies, two papers in each of two subjects to be chosen from a prescribed list of 51 optional subjects and an essay paper. Each paper is for 300 marks. except the essay which is for 200 marks. The final hurdle, the
interview, is conducted by an interview board consisting of eminent persons from different walks of life. The interview again is for 300 marks, making a grand total of 2300 marks. A score of 1300 or above generally ensures entry
into any public service. The exam is highly competitive, in that out of the four lakh odd people who appear for the prelims, only around 500 are finally selected, depending on  the available vacancies in the various services. In
order to gain entry into the IAS or the IFS which are the most in demand, one generally requires a  position in the top 50.

So, what happens next?

The selected candidates are assigned their respective services based on rank and preferences, much like the JEE counselling procedure. They are then made to undergo the reputed but unforgiving training program at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie as probationary officers. This training is primarily academic in nature with subjects like political science, history, economics, etc. being taught extensively. At the
end of this training, a hands-on training takes place. This is service specific and is conducted separately by each service. For All India Services like the IAS or IPS, the cadre system is followed. Each officer is randomly
allocated a state cadre (the state he/she will be posted in). Personal preferences are taken into consideration if the candidate has proved to be exceptionally talented. The officer is thereafter identified as a servant of the state government of his/her state cadre. All officers start out as Junior Scale officers and are generally posted at the district level, as Assistant District Magistrates (or Sub-Collectors in some states). With time and experience, the officers are promoted according to merit, and can go up to as high as the level of Cabinet Secretary, the highest attainable post at
the Centre.

How’s the work culture?

The work atmosphere is known to be rife with brazen corruption, excessive red-tape and unaccountability. Sometimes, the rigid hierarchical system leads to one feeling like a puppet in the hands of politicians and higher echelons. Often, an officer is made a scapegoat by the media and the politicians, in situations under the public eye. The Y K Alagh committee of 2001 called for immediate attention to these highly pertinent issues but failed to have any major impact.

Despite this, the job does carry with it immense power and as a result, commands a lot of respect. The job satisfaction is high, especially when working in the grass roots level. An additional feel-good factor that of being able to contribute to the development of the society at large.

How’s the money?

Though monetary remuneration is far below what you’d get in that plush corporate job that you could otherwise land, the perks are highly attractive and commensurate with the status of the post. The allowances and facilities that come along with the job more than make up for what you’d lose by saying no to a fat pay packet.

Other lucrative careers in the civil services

The Indian Foreign Service

Officers in the IFS look after the country’s external affairs, including diplomacy, trade and cultural relations with other nations. Officers are posted either at the Indian Embassies in other countries or at the Centre and are responsible for their administration and activities. They are also responsible for formulating and implementing the government’s foreign policy. The highest post in this service is that of Indian Ambassador to another
country.

The Indian Police Service

The IPS officers are the real life heroes who maintain law and order in the society. Apart from ensuring public safety and security, crime detection and prevention, traffic control and accident prevention, they are also responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the nation. The highest post in this service is that of Inspector General of Police (IG) of a particular state.

1 Comment

  1. Jas Singh says:

    Is there any alternate route to become an IAS officer. What if you hold all the required education, are an experienced professional in 30s, but not a SC/ST.

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